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GERD: Why Heartburn Is So Much More Than an Annoyance

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acid reflux medicationMany of us have to deal with heartburn from time to time – if we’ve eaten too much over Christmas, or exercised too soon after a meal. Seen as mildly irritating by most people, heartburn could be a sign of something much more serious.

If the heartburn you are experiencing is caused by acid reflux, it is important to treat this condition with more caution. Acid reflux has has the potential to cause more serious problems than the temporary pain and discomfort we typically associate with heartburn, and may require treatment through prescription medications such as Omeprazole or Lansoprazole.

GERD and heartburn

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a relatively common condition. Aside from constant heartburn, it can also cause narrowing of the oesophagus and internal scarring. GERD can also cause Esophagitis, which creates ulcers in the oesophagus that can bleed and make swallowing very painful.

This disease comes about when the ring of muscle at the bottom of your oesophagus weakens over time. Under normal circumstances, this ring helps food make its way to your stomach, whilst keeping the stomach acid from making its way back up the throat. However, if this ring of muscle fails to do its job, then stomach acid may pass back up the body and generate severe discomfort.

While intermittent and rare instances of GERD are unlikely to cause serious damage, the repeated exposure of the oesophagus to acid can lead to Barrett’s Oesophagus- a condition that may result in oesophageal cancer if not treated properly.

Who is at risk?

People with asthma are at high risk of GERD. Research has shown that over 75% of adults who suffer from asthma also suffer from GERD.

Lifestyle also plays an important role in the development of GERD. Heavy smokers put themselves at great risk of chronic heartburn and peptic ulcers because of the negative effect of cigarettes on the throat. Poor diet is another contributing factor as some foodstuffs can cause an excess of stomach acid to be created, resulting in an increased chance of reflux into the oesophagus.

Several studies have also linked GERD with obesity – meaning that overweight people are more likely to experience heartburn and acid reflux too. A proven theory as to why has yet to be determined, however.

Best ways to avoid heartburn

Considering the risk factor for heavy smokers, one of the best ways to keep a healthy throat is to avoid cigarettes altogether. Posture is also thought to play a role in the pain caused by heartburn and many sufferers often find that long periods hunched over can lead to greater discomfort.

Those who work at a desk all day are encouraged to stand up regularly and allow the body to maintain its natural posture. This can also be said for those who suffer from heartburn while lying down in bed. Raising the upper body (through an adjustable bed or even an extra pillow) may relieve the compression of internal organs and ease symptoms.

Another simple way of relieving heartburn is by chewing gum. Gum causes the production of increased saliva, which helps dilute excess acid in the stomach. You can also try a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water – which also helps to neutralise stomach acid.

For those suffering from acid reflux, the most important step is to consult a health professional. At Express Pharmacy, our qualified team of pharmacists are well placed to provide advice, guidance and a range o prescription medications to tackle acid reflux.

Visit our Acid Reflux treatment page today for more information.